Is Banana Fish Good or Great?

So I have returned to write about a show that you probably have not watched or have any interest in watching. Banana Fish is a 2018 anime adapted from the manga of the same name, which ran from 1985-1994, written by Akimi Yoshida. I would like the give a shout out to the homie Luke, for referring this series to me. So to preface this article, I have never read the manga or any of Yoshida’s works in the past. I hardly had any clue of the series itself, however I did really enjoy this show. But I enjoy a lot of shows and I never write about them, so why write about Banana Fish? Because it exists in the world between “good” and “great” and we should explore why that is.

Banana Fish is set in 1980’s New York City, in a setting riddled with gangs, mafia, and corrupt politicians. A young gang leader, Ash Lynx – an extremely impressive young man, comes across a drug like no other. In his pursuit of the mystery around this drug, he meets another young man Eiji Okumura, a Japanese photographer who has come to America, to write a story on New York gangs. Together, the two cross paths and with a few friends and foes along the way, uncover the truth of not only the drug “Banana Fish” but Ash Lynx himself.

“So it’s good right??”

Banana Fish does a lot of good things, a lot of bad things, a lot of things they could have done better and a lot of things that surprised me in a good way. First off, the good things involve interesting characters. I really like Ash Lynx, and although Eiji annoyed me with his beta personality, I understood his thought process and why he was the way he was. I also enjoyed many of the secondary characters such as Shorter, Blanca, and Max. I think the characters are what actually makes the story so appealing. The entire time, I was vested into what could possibly happen with the characters and that was what kept me watching at 3 am in the morning. One friendship I wish we got more of was Shorter and Ash. Characters in the story kept referring to Ash and Shorter as best friends, I would have loved to see why they were best friends, and not just good friends.

Here’s the bad part though. A lot of the characters’ backgrounds just seemed so thrown together and useless that I feel like those characteristics were just put there to leverage the scene. For example, Eiji was a pole vaulter, but besides maybe twice, in the whole 24 episodes, it really isn’t important, so why did they stress that he was a pole vaulter so heavily near the beginning of the series. Or that Ash is just a walking God. At first he had 180 IQ, then 200 IQ, also he’s so handsome, but also pretty and delicate like a woman, but he’s not delicate because he’s as strong as a bull and can fight in peak condition whilst being drugged or being wounded. The plot armour is THICC with this one. Another bad point in this series was that it was stupid repetitive. How many times are people going to get kidnapped and saved, how many times is Ash going to the hospital, how many times are people going to get shot in the shoulder/arm, how many times are we going to talk about Banana Fish data. It’s just so repetitive and if I did not love the characters much as I did, I would have quit watching, for real. I also feel like the producers deciding on modernizing the story to the 2010’s takes away from the actual story. Setting the story in the 80’s, like the manga would have done a better job of catching the atmosphere of a gang ridden NYC.

Actually cute af, tho

But one thing that was done extremely well was pacing. I even asked Luke, how are they going to adapt a 9 year manga serialization into 24 episodes. The producers did it well enough that it did not feel rushed at all, and I binged this show and watched episodes consecutively and I still thought that that the pacing was appropriate. I really did feel the long journey of Banana Fish as we start in NYC, go to LA, and back. I really did feel as if the character arcs were progressed gradually, without any abrupt epiphany. The cause and effect of everything was really well done and I was never lost in this series or why a character believed in what they believed.

And for those reasons, is why I can’t decide whether I like or love this series. The characters make me love the series. Apparently, like all the other men in this series, I also love Ash and I feel for him. Eiji proves to be a great foil for Ash as well. I really enjoyed the interaction between characters and how Ash played a role into every character’s development. I enjoy that we get to understand why so many villains feel the way they do of their world and how so many of them justify their misdeeds. However, that doesn’t save the story from every cliche in the book of anime. Ash’s plot armour cannot even save this series from how poorly managed the plot devices are used in this series. On a scale from 1-10, it battles between the 7.9 and an 8.1. So please someone decide for me before I lose my mind.

“Wow Eiji, this blog is good. We should subscribe to it!”

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